Biophysics and Soft Matter Physics

Sanat K. Kumar
Jeffrey T. Koberstein
Christopher James Durning
Ben O'Shaughnessy
Edward F. Leonard

Soft matter denotes polymers, gels, self-assembled surfactant structures, colloidal suspensions, and many other complex fluids. These are strongly fluctuating, floppy, fluidlike materials that can nonetheless exhibit diverse phases with remarkable long-range order. In the last few decades, statistical physics has achieved a sound understanding of the scaling and universality characterizing large length scale properties of much synthetic soft condensed matter.

More recently, ideas and techniques from soft condensed matter physics have been applied to biological soft matter such as DNA, RNA, proteins, cell membrane surfactant assemblies, actin and tubulin structures, and many others. The aim is to shed light on (1) fundamental cellular processes such as gene expression or the function of cellular motors and (2) physical mechanisms central to the exploding field of biotechnology involving systems such as DNA microarrays and methods such as genetic engineering. The practitioners in this highly interdisciplinary field include physicists, chemical engineers, biologists, biochemists, and chemists. The "Biophysics and Soft Matter" concentration is closely related to the "Science and Engineering of Polymers and Soft Materials" concentration, but here greater emphasis is placed on biological materials and cellular biophysics. Both theory and experiment are catered to. Students will be introduced to statistical mechanics and its application to soft matter research and to cellular biophysics. In parallel, the student will learn about genomics and cellular biology to develop an understanding of what the central and fascinating biological issues are.

Statistical mechanics (CHAP E4120) Physics of soft matter (CHEN E6920)
Dynamics of complex fluids (CHEN E6100y)
Special topics in soft condensed matter (CHEN E6630)
Biochemistry/molecular biology--eukaryotes, I (BIOC G6300)
Biochemistry/molecular biology--eukaryotes, II (BIOC G6301)
The genome and the cell, to be offered by Professor Leonard (CHEN4750)
Cellular molecular biophysics (G4350)

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